Brits admit they are secretly green to save the pennies, not the planet necessarily

by Michael Smith

Never mind going green to save the planet. According to new research from Legal & General, two in five Brits, 41%, admit to telling their friends they are being environmentally friendly, but in secret and truth they are doing so to save money.

Despite previous encouraging research findings which showed that 98% of Brits are now taking steps to make their home more environmentally friendly, it would appear that financial pressures may be higher on the agenda than environmental ones for some.

For example, probably secretly due to the increasing fuel costs and wanting to save money, 26% of Brits said that they are turning off their heating, but this measure is also helping to save the planet.

Often, or so it would appear that it takes a bit of money problems and the need, or wish, to save money, for people to realize that they actually can do it, such as using less heating by turning down the thermostat, for example; or shopping secondhand or in thrift stores. This all helps the environment.

But does it really matter whether it is done primarily to save the planet or to save money; as long as it is beneficial for the environment?

The findings are from Legal & General’s Changing Face of British Homes research, which asked over 2,000 adults whether any measures they are taking are to secretly save money, rather than the environment.

Women most guilty in this matter:
While 27% of women said they were taking green measures solely to be environmentally friendly, which is higher than the number of men at 17%, it would appear that more women are actually guilty of misleading their friends about their motives. Over two in five, 45%, women are taking green measures in order to appear environmentally friendly when secretly they are doing it to save money, compared to just 36% of men.

North most likely to be secretly saving:
Those living in the North of England are also most likely to appear to be saving the planet to their friends, but actually being green to save the pennies – 43% compared to 36% of those who live in Scotland.

Top three environmentally friendly measures Brits take to secretly save money:

  • Turning off the heating at home... 26%
  • Recycling/ reusing my plastic bags... 22%
  • Cutting down on ready-made meals... 15%
Garry Skelton, marketing director at Legal & General’s general insurance business said: “The research shows that economic climate and environment issues are having an impact on the way we live. With the colder weather approaching, people are likely to resist turning on their heating to save money but we would advise Brits to conduct some checks on their property to ensure that they are safe, as well as energy efficient.

For example, checking that the loft insulation is at the recommended thickness of 250mm; that pipes that may freeze in cold weather are lagged and repairing any leaks or drafts. These are all measures that can help the environment but also help Brits to save money during the autumn and winter months.

Keeping the heating off with the cold weather approaching may not always be the best advice, and that not only with regards that people may hurt themselves here. Pipes and such are also to be considered, as mentioned above.

Keeping up general maintenance on a home can also give people some peace of mind that their homes are in good condition for any possibly bad weather, as well as meeting a condition of their household insurance cover. Most household insurance policies require their customers to ensure that their property is maintained in a sound condition and kept in good repair.”

In addition to that I would like to suggest, and I have tried and tested this, to actually just turning down the thermostat in the night when going to be to something like 12-15 degrees Celsius so the heating will, occasionally, kick in during the night to “keep the chill off”. It is far cheaper, so I have found, to doing it that way than to using a timer, say, and having the heating kick in sometime in the early morning and then needing hours before the house is warm enough.

Many people think that in doing that they will save money (and the environment) but neither is the case, for it takes a lot of energy to fully reheat a house or apartment in the morning when you use a timer over tick over. Just a little suggestion.

© M Smith (Veshengro)

Candles, many candles (not, not just four)

by Michael Smith

Many of us sure like candles. The flickering flame and the ambient light a candle throws gives us some kind of good feeling and affects the mood. The flickering orange light of the flame of the candle, in the same way as the light from fire, seems to connect the human spirit and soul with the primordial. Something probably that is linked to the ancient past of humanity, to the fires and the flickering torches in the homes of ancient man. A closer link maybe even more so to the way fire and flame was seen as a representation of the God of Fire, and when fire and flame were venerated. A belief that many people still have, including the Romani People.

Candles of all kinds can create a relaxing and calming atmosphere in a home and scented candles even more so and the latter are much beloved by many of us.

However, many of us who have an environmental conscience are concerned as to the fact that the majority of candles we could use, and especially here the scented variety, are made from petroleum-based oils, namely so-called paraffin wax. While there are other ways of producing candles, such as from tallow, that is to say the fat from animals such as beef or deer, which would make them, more or less unsuitable for any vegetarian or vegan, or from beeswax. The truth is that tallow candles are more or less no longer on the market (unless one would specifically would want a candle maker to make some, I guess) and would hence be very expensive and the same is true for beeswax candles.

There is another alternative, aside from the above mentioned, and one that is in price between paraffin wax candles and those of beeswax, and that are soy candles made with oils from the humble soy bean.

The common soy bean is gaining ground against popular petroleum based candle wax. Bio-degradable and already accepted as a reusable energy source, this humble legume is growing in acceptance among candle lovers.

Candles always are a top gift items, whether during the soon upon us holiday season or at other times, and Caterpillars Candles' new Create-A-Candle candle making kit will sure appeal to those searching for a creative holiday gift. Making one's own candles by, for instance, reusing and thus recycling, small glass jars and the like, is fun and also useful.

Caterpillars' natural soy candles feature top-shelf fragrances based in all natural vegetable oil, not traditional liquid petroleum based fragrance and the soy candles from Caterpillars are said to last three times longer than petroleum-based candles, have an incredible scent throw with virtually no black soot.

Caterpillars also offer a great line of wholesale soy candles for your business and have great specials on wedding candles.

Personally I love candles, whether scented or unscented, and I rather sit at home relaxing with a candle or two burning than to have electric lights on of any kind.

I assume, personally, that this comes from my background and childhood when candles and oil lamps and the fire outside was the norm. But, the life of the true Gypsy People is far from romantic, before anyone makes the mistake. Candles and fire, though, are religious with us and hence I have a penchant for them, and having a deep regard for the environment I rather have them made from natural oils and waxes than from those based on the sticky black stuff that is extracted out of the ground.

I am sure than I am not the only one who would prefer to have his candles from materials other than petroleum-based wax, that is to say, paraffin wax, but at a lower cost than beeswax. While I love beeswax candles and especially the smell they give off I do not, I must say, like the price tag that comes attached to most of them. Hence soy candles may be the solution, for me and others.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Xmas Fair & Peruvian Fiesta

Peruvian Orphan Children's Fund

Xmas Fair & Peruvian Fiesta


Saturday, November 8th 2008

From 1:00pm to 6:00pm

St. Columbas Church Hall

Pont Street, SW1X 0BD

Knightsbridge Underground Station

Live music and dance from the heart of the Peruvian Andes, exotic Afro-Peruvian dances & you may also like to brush up your salsa!

Peruvian Music & Dance Workshops for children,
...registration in advance required.



ADULTS: £5.00

CHILD (OVER 5) £2.50


To apply for a stall or for further information contact:
Elena Day tel: 0207 916 1484 or

This advertising space was donated by Tatchipen Media

BOGO LIGHT - Advertisement

The things that people throw into litter bins

by Michael Smith

We, here in the UK, must be, I am nearly sure, one of the most wasteful societies in the developed world.

Seeing on an almost daily basis the “strange” things that people throw into litter bins, for instance, in public parks, can make one only wonder what kind of society we are becoming and have become. What is it with us?

Aside from picnic food more often than not still in its wrappers and often worth £50 at a time; there are knives and forks – as in steel flatware – from picnics that people simply throw as they appear to be too lazy to take them home again with them. It seems to be too much of an effort to do so. This, basically, is just for starters.

Losing things is, obviously, one thing but deliberately tossing (throwing) things that have nothing wrong with them into the trash cans, now that is another story all together.

While everyone is talking about the “credit crunch” and of escalating food prices, which certainly is the case, for some that is still all too cheap. Or so, at least, it would appear. The “credit crunch” does not seem to be biting enough, as yet, at least, for some people. Were it not for this they would not throw food and other things so carelessly into the trash the way they do.

Sure for some people the “credit crunch” and the rising food prices are biting but others, and amongst them even people who are on low incomes and even on no income at all it does not seems to be the case and they could not, it seems, care less.

When seeing that people also do not bother to inquire about lost cell phones, children's clothes left behind in parks from sports events, etc., and when there are bicycles left behind by kids and adults simply because of a punctured tire then, obviously, this economic downturn and all simply is not enough as yet to make them rethink their actions.

It also seems that people have a very strange mindset as to this and with mobile telephones and bicycles they seem to lie to the insurance companies and claim the “loss” back that way. A nice way to get new. Shame that everyone else has to pay for that in their insurance premiums and because of people like those the premiums keep going up.

With regards to cycles they are not stolen and abandoned in the main, not are the accidentally left behind. Nay! They are left simply because they have but, as mentioned, a burst tire, a slightly buckled wheel, broken brakes, or other such minor faults that could easily be repaired, and for little money too. Alas they do, however, rather abandon the bikes and claim more or likely on the insurance as stolen. As I said it is therefore no wonder that the premiums for insurances of any kind keep going up and up.

As I get my hands on most of those abandoned bicycles from a park that I am involved with caring for I must say that, to some degree, I do not mind, as it brings me free spare parts and such and also a bike or two to refurbish and rebuild but as someone concerned about the amount of waste that is being produced and about rubbish left cluttering up the countryside and going into holes in the ground called landfill this kind of behavior not only simply angers me; it also makes me sad.

I must say that I also find it very hard to understand as to what people lose, as compared to throwing away, without ever trying to find it again and inquiring about it. How someone can lose one boot – and, yes, it definitely appeared to have been lost – or a necktie beats me. The single lost glove on cold freezing winter's mornings and evenings and such is also a mystery to me. It should, I think, be rather quickly obvious in such conditions that one does not have glove #2 on hand, literally.

But, as the saying goes, “there's none as strange as folks”, and in those cases it gets proven again and again.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Prince Charles says no to gadgets

by Michael Smith

His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, has recently criticized the use of eco gadgets such as wind turbines and solar panels to justify inefficient buildings.

The Heir to the British Throne, who can be very outspoken on many issues and on the environment especially, has called on developers to use traditional materials with “eco-technology” and I doubt than anyone could disagree with him there.

As I have, personally, stated in the article “Back to the future” we must go back to the methods of the past in order to create a sustainable future and that also applies to building.

For years and years we have been playing around with huge glass frontages and even the so-called Earthships still have them and while in the latter case this is supposed to help the heating of the house due to the fact that is it a passive structure in general the big glass frontages do us and the environment no favor.

During hot weather and sunshine they are like greenhouses, increasing the heat inside the buildings to such a level that the building need to be cooled down significantly and during winters they cause, even if they are double or triple glazed, heat loss over a huge areas.

Recent studies in Canada have shown that the building of the late 19th and early 20th Century in the cities of Canada and the USA with their many smaller windows, set back into the walls, are much more efficient in heat and in cold than the glasshouses that are the modern office blocks.

The same, obviously, is also the case for buildings of that kind in Europe and elsewhere. Another point to prove that our ancestors knew a thing or two of heat preservation in winter and of keeping a building cool in summer – and that without double glazing. And let's face it, huge double glazed windows do no keep us cool in hot times; in fact the opposite is true.

Shutters in the front of windows in Europe, for instance, also are something that falls into the same league. No one of the modern architects and designers seem to have realized this until recently. In the cold regions of Europe the shutters on the outside of the windows are mostly intended to keep out the cold and to keep in the heat while in the hot climes of, say, Spain, Italy and Greece, the shutters are meant to keep out the noonday sun.

Old technology was not and is not, necessarily, wrong and obsolete. Far from it. There is much of that that we should employ again, mixed with modern materials and technology and HRH the Prince of Wales certainly is right when he says that developers should use traditional materials together with “eco-technology”.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Green gimmicks

by Michael Smith

What do I mean with green gimmicks? The answer to that can be short or long but let's just cut it down to size and it is all those gadgets and things that are given the prefix of “green” and/or “eco” and which, in reality are not or not really.

Firstly, let me say that there are lots of things out there, whether gadgets or not, that have been given the prefix of “green” or “eco” but are in fact neither. Many are actually a burden on the environment.

The “eco-button” is one of those useless gadgets that I am trying to name and shame in this little article for using and abusing the name and notion of “eco” and “green”. The only thing that is green on the “eco-button” is the color. I like to point the reader to the review of this device within the pages of this journal (found here).

Another one of those gimmick, in my opinion, is the ceramic cup that looks like take out paper cup. Can someone please tell me who, in their right mind, would carry such a cup with them to go to, say, Starbucks, Wild Bean Cafe, or whichever other coffee outlet? While I am all for the notion of “bring your own” it has to be something that won't break should I happen to drop it. Hence the metal coated insulated mugs one can buy, whether at the outlets themselves or elsewhere, is a different kettle of fish but a ceramic cup; that is a load of greenwash but nothing else.

There are way too many gimmicks, as I have already indicated above, that are given, now, because of climate change, the prefix of “green” or “eco” and it beats me at times how they can even make such claims.

The biggest problem with this is that many consumers fall for the claims of those gadgets and other items that are thus claimed to be “green” and doing something to save the environment. Most people have not got the discernment, it would appear, to spot a gimmick and fake and also, as they want to do something for the environment, often as a kind of a conscience calming effort, that they go with all of those things.

While I have only mentioned those two items as regards to green gimmicks I am sure the readers will have their own encounters with such things and I invite you all here to share your experiences with the rest of us.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Back to the future

by Michael Smith

Lessons from the past are needed for a sustainable future

In order to arrive at a green and sustainable society we must go back to the future or advance towards the past.

While I know that there would be some people that might call me, and others like me, Luddites for suggesting this I am not, however, in any way against technology and such. Far from it and the opposite it true, as I believe that it is the old technology combined with our modern one and the knowledge that we have now that really can and will and could and would be a solution. Many of the old technologies could, combined with today's knowledge and technology, be improved for the use of today in a sustainable society.

Examples here could be, for instance:

  • Satellite navigation devices for sailing ships, as well as modern communications combined with other aids such as devices to trim sails efficiently that could make such carbon neutral vessels the maritime transport of the future.
  • Trains could, once again be steam trains burning waste wood in their furnaces to heat the boilers instead of coal and they could even use methane gas with which to power steam turbines. Wood burning alone would make those trains basically carbon neutral; using methane gas would make them better, probably, still.
  • CHP using wood such as waste wood, forest industry waste, and other such “solid” timber – not chips or pellet.
  • Houses once again should be built with smaller windows, including office building, as that, as it has shown from studies of the old building from the late 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, is much more energy efficient than the huge glass frontages that we have created ever since the 1960s and 1970s. Those building with all the huge glass fronts waste heat in the cold periods and require cooling in the hot times. For the additional lights solar tubes should be employed to bring daylight into houses and offices.
  • Windows also should have, like the used to, shutters that can be closed – during cold to retain heat and during heat to keep it out.
  • Blinds should be used on windows, whether inside or the awning kind outside, in order to keep out the over amount of sunlight and making it hence cheaper to keep a building cool in hot periods.
Let's face it, none of this is rocket science and it has been about for years, decades and even centuries. We just thought, so it would appear, that the old folks simply were wrong in the way they did things. They were not. Maybe that is the reason why the change in climate has only occurred when we started to use the huge windows and all those things. Think about it!

Even the simple Amish style horse and buggy and the bicycle should be definitely making a comeback if we want to have a really sustainable society and future.

The problem with the way the governments act, including and especially the British government, is as if all this is rocket science. They need to have this study and that study in order discover the things that have been discovered centuries ago.

In summer 2008 it took the British government a study to discover that waste wood can be burned. I mean, real rocket science, is it not. The Neanderthals could have told them that for less than the millions of Sterling spent on the study.

About the same time, through yet another multi-million Pound Sterling study they discovered that inland waterways and canals can be used for the transportation of freight. One can but wonder what those people think the canals and navigations were “invented” for in the 19th Century? Pleasure boating? Certainly not. The canals and the so-called “navigations” were created for the transportation of freight, of coal, bricks and other pottery goods, iron ore, etc. It certainly was not for any kind of pleasure boating.

Many of the old technologies will serve us better through the crises and in reducing our impact on the environment than many of the new ideas.

Biofuels, as one example, are not the saviour that they are made out to be. First of we will still be using the infernal combustion engine, putting out exhaust fumes into the atmosphere, and secondly, the production of those, unless we can use pond algae, puts an even greater strain on the environment than does the extraction of oil, including, I should assume, the use of tar sands.

As far as biofuels are concerned it would appear that we are, yet again, dealing with another new vested interest groups where money is involved. A different kind of oil boom, but one that will be as dangerous to the environment, if not more so even, than our current usage of oil.

In a small way biofules can be used, such as for lamp oil, as they always used to, but for the use in motorcars they should not be employed as, as it would appear, they might even release more harmful emissions than does standard oil based gasoline diesel.

In many way, as said, we would be much better off if we looked at the old ways and also on what, for instance, the original Ford cars were meant to run, namely methane. And the same was the case for the original electricity generating power stations. Methane gas is there in abundance and is produced by decomposition, including in the effluent that we sent into the sewerage works or into the septic tanks.

If we would combine old technologies with the modern ones of today I am convinced that we really could make a positive impact on the environment and on the lives of all of us.

Why do we have to get from, say, London to Birmingham, in half and hour or thereabouts by train, for instance, at a high cost though (flying is cheaper and that does not make sense), rather than having a reliable and cheap railroad service that might take an hour or even an hour and a half between those two places, but which run even half hour? We are obsessed with speed.

The same is true as to the Internet. We want and demand faster and faster computers and faster and faster Internet connections. Precisely what for? In my view 2 MB speed should suffice. Rather than faster and faster reliability should be made the burning issue and safety. But I digressed.

The same is for the transportation of freight. We want it there yesterday, near enough at least, and this is all due to the fact that we do not have proper logistics control in companies and factories, and that stores do not have any warehousing facilities proper. Hence we have everything trucked around the countryside at speed. Overnight deliveries, next day deliveries, etc., etc.

London, for example, has a big river going through it, namely the Thames, but the only freight traffic on that river, a navigable river, are garbage barges towed by tugs and the occasional dredger. Only with the beginning of the building of the 2012 Olympic areas is some freight being carried again via some parts of the river.

When we look, however, at other countries, whether this be Germany or elsewhere, the waterways are still being used for freight and all freight that is not in a rush to getting somewhere, such as fuels, building materials, etc., are carried by river and canals.

In renewable energy, including the burning of wood for combined heat and power, many if not indeed all of our European neighbors are leading the way and Britain is somewhere far behind trying to, maybe finally, playing “catch up”.

Forest wast and waste lumber can provide a great deal of the wood that is going into such CHP plants and if those are local rather than trying to supply an entire country the footprint would a much smaller one too.

Earlier on I mentioned sailing ships, like the three-masters and four-masters of old that were ocean going, but also the two-mast and even the single-mast Thames barge kind of vessels I mean to include in in that, could once again ply the waters to carry cargo.

Already wine is being transported from France to Ireland using such ships and, while it takes a little longer (anyone needing the wind next day delivery?) the slower journey and especially the kind of journey with the rolling of a sailing vessel in and with the sea compared to a steamer or such is apparently better for the wine and its quality.

Carrying cargo in such a way is low carbon to basically nigh on carbon neutral. The only environmental footprint problem being from the use of the generator on board to power the navigation systems, communications, radar transponder and such like.

With modern technologies, I am sure, sailing ships could, once again, come into their own, especially for traditional kind of cargo without the use of huge metal boxes. I somewhat doubt that the more or less traditional sailing ships will be capable of having those boxes standing around on deck.

That said, however, the question is as to whether containers are, in fact, a requirement for fright shipping.

So much for some food for thought here. A larger essay on this subject shall be forthcoming soon and more than likely be incorporated in the first volume of the e-book “The Best of Green (Living) Review – Vol.1”.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Delicious homemade Christmas gifts - at a fair price to you!

Celebrity drinks expert, Olly Smith, has teamed up with Fairtrade trailblazer Cafédirect to help you create a mouth-watering, handmade ethical treat this Christmas. His quick and easy choccie biscuit recipe, which uses Cafédirect’s 100 per cent Fairtrade ‘Cocodirect’ drinking chocolate, makes a delicious, inexpensive and fairly traded homemade gift for friends, relatives and loved ones.

Olly Smith’s Cocodirect Biscuits
2oz. Fairtrade sugar
8oz. butter
8oz. self raising flour
3oz Cafédirect’s “Cocodirect” drinking chocolate powder

Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the flour and Cocodirect powder. Form the mixture into little balls the size of walnuts. Place on baking tray and flatten with a wet fork leaving ridges. Cook at 165 degrees for 20-25 minutes (keeping an eye on them so that they don’t overbrown). These quantities will make approx 50-60 biscuits, so if you want to make less just half the recipe or simply form the mixture into larger sized balls.

The secret behind Cafédirect’s great-tasting hot drinks is the direct, long term relationships it fosters with the people that produce them. As well as always paying above market prices for its crops, over the last three years Cafédirect has reinvested, on average, 60% per cent of its profits back into growers’ businesses and communities. This support helps strengthen growers’ organisations, develop their knowledge and expertise and enables them to build a brighter, more sustainable future. As a result, Cafédirect always get the pick of the growers’ crop, so that you enjoy high quality, great tasting hot drinks. You can’t say fairer than that!
Cocodirect is available from most major supermarkets; RRP £2.29 for a 250g tub.

For further information about Cafédirect’s award-winning products visit The site also contains information about Cafédirect’s grower partners, its pioneering Fairtrade work, and groundbreaking Climate Change project.

Source: FML Public Relations


WASHINGTON D.C., October 2008: “Standing before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1987, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives, made an appeal representing ‘an endangered nation.’ That year for the first time, ‘unusual high waves’ in the Indian Ocean inundated a quarter of the urban area on the capital island of Male’, flooded farms, and washed away reclaimed land,” says Janet Larsen, Director of Research at the Earth Policy Institute, in a recent release, “Rising Seas and Powerful Storms Threaten Global Security”. “Gayoom cited scientific evidence that human activities were releasing greenhouse gases that warm the planet, ultimately raising global sea level as glaciers melt and warmer water expands. The trouble extended beyond small islands; studies showed that rising seas would wreak havoc on the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Netherlands, and the river deltas of Egypt and Bangladesh.”

Fast-forward through two decades of swelling seas and more powerful storms and the call has moved from the need to study global warming to the necessity of dramatic action to stabilize climate. With small island nations in peril, these days President Gayoom evokes the vision of a United Nations where “name plates are gone; seats are empty.” He does not speak alone: this fall, some 50 countries, including a number of small island nations along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the European Union, are planning to put a resolution before the U.N. General Assembly requesting that the U.N. Security Council address “the threat posed by climate change to international peace and security.” As Ambassador Stuart Beck of Palau has asked, “Would any nation facing an invading army not do the same?”

Without a dramatic reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the global average temperature is projected to increase by up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit (6.4 degrees Celsius) and sea level could rise some 3 feet (1 meter) by the end of this century. Alarmingly, recent accelerated melting on the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets – which together contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 39 feet – means that seas could rise even faster than predicted.

There is but one problem with this continuing claim made by the Earth Policy Institute about the projected increase of global temperatures and that is that, according to finding from an Australian scientific research, the Earth has stopped warming up and that the temperatures have plateaued out about six to seven years ago and have not risen by even a minute fraction ever since.

In fact other source predict that we are entering a period of global cooling and the possibility of mini ice ages in the next decades.

The warming of the globe also provides more energy to fuel stronger storms. More-powerful storms can combine with even a modest rise in sea level in a dangerous synergy, allowing for ever larger storm surges that can flatten coastal communities. Because much of humanity, including many residents of the world’s major cities like Kolkata (Calcutta), London, Shanghai, and Washington, DC, are located in vulnerable coastal areas, hundreds of millions of people are directly at risk. A large part of the New York metropolitan area is less than 15 feet above sea level; a Category-3 hurricane could easily swamp a third of lower Manhattan.

The fact is that the Earth is going through one of its cyclic changes in climate as She has done ever since she has been in existence and that this is, more than likely, not man-made at all. This is not to say that we are not harming Mother Earth and causing irreparable damage in our exploitation of Her resources and in the way we pollute the world. However, as far as things look for just looking at millennia past Mother is having one of her periods and while she will recover from if we may not.

The problem lies that we, presently, are being told that we must cut carbon dioxide emissions and such and that this might stop the global warming which has now been renamed into “climate change”.

If, as some of us believe, that this is a natural cycle of the Earth and not made by man then we will be very hard pressed to change anything by cutting CO2 or whatever. What we must do is to prepare for the inevitable, namely the changed in climate that will come.

This is not to say that we must not stop polluting the Planet as we do. Far from it. Never has it been more pressing to clean up the air, the water and the land; to stop filling up holes in the ground with rubbish of all sorts that are a ticking time bomb; and to get away from the dependence on oil (which may be running out now) by getting away from the infernal combustion engine.

All together, one out of every 10 people on the planet lives in a coastal zone less than 33 feet above sea level. If higher seas and extreme weather render these areas uninhabitable, more than 630 million people could be left searching for safer ground. Yet no place in the world is equipped to deal with mass population movements or can accommodate millions of climate refugees. Fragile countries already stretched to their limits could be pushed past the breaking point into complete state failure. As British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned the U.N. Security Council, the risk of massive economic disruption and “migration on an unprecedented scale” make climate change a true security threat.

Only recently the British government and agencies has to back pedal as to the estimate to any rises in the level of the Thames and as to the predicted floods that would be a result of climate change and how it would affect London adversely.

Anyone who has lived in the UK long enough before the Thames Barrier was built will remember the way the Thames would flood nigh on annually and how the Embankment has been under several feet of water every now and then. Not to speak from other areas less well protected. Ever since the Thames Barrier was put in place and operation this is something that those that have come after that time have never ever seen. If you live in flood plains you must expect to get flooded some time, whatever.

Whatever the president of the Maldives said in 1987 so far his Island state, made up of mostly low lying islands, still exists and there are still streets in Male and not canals and rivers. Venice still exists as well, even though people had, nigh on, predicted that it would be gone soon, and that was years ago. Venice is not so much being swamped as that it is sinking into the lagoon in which it stands, built on wooden stilts. Shame no one seem to be telling the world that, however.

Most of the issue with people leaving their areas today has little to do with global warming, aka climate change, but with the fact that the land has been exploited to such an extent that it is turning into desert, such as in North Africa, or simply no longer bears any crops for a variety of reasons, whether in Africa or South and Central America.

When it comes to Australia, maybe one should look at the “records”, the verbal ones, of the Aborigines, for I am sure that they will tell us that that country always has had a very wobbly climate. The couple of hundreds of years that the while man has been there, though, has seen the country been destroyed and its fragile ecosystem, which always was fragile, has collapsed. Hence the problems faced by farmers in the outback and elsewhere in that country.

It is such a strange things that whenever modern methods have been introduced modern man, of whatever color, unless he is deeply rooted in a relationship with the land, has caused it to be exploited and in the end destroyed, whether in Europe, North America, or elsewhere. Remember the “dust bowl” of the 1930's of the American Prairies? Well, that was the cause of exploitation and today we have not improved upon this.

We are in severe problems but, while we must do all the things that have been spoken and written about, from reusing and recycling and reducing and so on, we also must come to terms with the fact that, more than likely, we will not be able to reverse anything as regards to change in the climate as it is a phenomenon of the Earth Herself and we must simply learn to live with it and prepare to survive it.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Cutting air pollution in cities may raise global temps, says scientist

by Michael Smith

Cleaning air in Beijing and in other large cities suffering from pollution problems by limiting car and power-plant emissions may raise global temperatures instead of lowering them, a German scientist warns.

Aerosols, or particles suspended in air, have a cooling effect on the Earth, countering global warming linked to carbon dioxide, said Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.

A drop in aerosols in the atmosphere could cause a "rapid" rise in temperatures, he said.

Airborne pollutants act as an umbrella worldwide while CO2 provides insulation, trapping heat attempting to escape into the atmosphere. A rise in temperature because of declines in aerosols in the atmosphere can be offset by slashing CO2 emissions, he said. By not reducing carbon output, humanity "is closing the last door we have through which we can possibly influence the global climate," Schellnhuber said.

Now we are in real problems. What do we do now? Now the pollution is supposed to be good for the Earth's climate. What next?

Sometimes I am beginning to wonder whether those supposed experts have any clue whatsoever and the more I see and read the more I believe they have about as much an idea as the ordinary person in the street; namely none. In fact some of the ordinary people on the street probably have more.

The problem is that no one wants to admit, it would seem, that Mother Earth is throwing a wobbly and it has nothing to do with what we do or what we have done.

As I have said before and will say again, while there may be nothing we can do to stop the change in climate we must clean up the Earth so that, whatever, we can still continue to live on this Planet, which is the only one in the Milky Way (no, this one is not edible) that can support human life as it is.

The more we allow the pollution to carry on, however, the more it will make it difficult for many of us to live on this planet properly. Already more and more people are suffering from chest problems and other heath problems that are, as it would appear, being caused by pollution. In addition to that we have everything, including people, being poisoned by leakages from landfill and so many other causes that we must do something. Otherwise we might as well give up and go and find an new planet where we can live. There is none, however.

So what now?

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Recycling robot to drive message home in Tower Hamlets

A massive purple robot has been unleashed on a poorly-performing London borough to kick start recycling

by Michael Smith

The 6m giant, Mr Recycle More, has been built from wheelie bins by Emergency Exit Arts and will tour Tower Hamlets, taking his waste management message to the London borough's schools, community centres and estates, according to information from the Borough.

Historically, Tower Hamlets has had some of the worst recycling rates in the country but in recent years has begun making significant improvements.

Knowing the borough, however, this is hardly surprising. Aside from the fact that the people, per se, may be disinterested in doing the recycling thing, often for being too lazy and also for being of a culture that may not like handling waste materials, the borough itself never has been much for providing any facilities. This may be different since my last proper visit to that borough but, for some reason, I doubt it.

One strand of the borough's strategy has been to try to engage the community and the unveiling of the robot in Spitalfields Market recently is part of that plan.

While the borough may have a strategy, according to its spokesperson, of engaging the community – which one of the communities in that borough precisely, as there is hardly a cohesive community in that borough – I am sure with many people in that borough, especially, in particular areas, that will very much fall on deaf ears.

Alongside the towering robot, the council's awareness-raising campaign will see hundreds of posters on bill boards and buses starring local people who recycle.

Fiona Heyland, Tower Hamlets' head of recycling, told the media that the borough was keen to improve its recycling rates.

"Over the last two years the council has done an awful lot of work to help educate people about recycling and give them access to services to make it easier for them to recycle," she said.

"The launch today is about bringing recycling back to the community [so people can] feel things are being done for them and with them rather than to them."

The unveiling of the robot follows the introduction of new services in the borough - green and food waste recycling as well as an army of litter pickers who will sort recyclable litter at the point they collect it for the first time.

The borough also recently launched Whitechapel as the first market in the country to recycle 100 per cent of the waste it generates.

The problem that still is not being addressed is to actually give people a real incentive to recycling, in the same way as it being done in, for instance, the USA and Norway, by way of reverse vending machines and other financial payback schemes.

If, instead of spending all that money on gimmicks and posters and roadshows, that money would be used as a beginning to get a monetary reward scheme going for people bringing in recyclables, I am sure, things would turn around rather quickly.

Then again the councils have absolutely no intention, in the UK, to pay people to recycle. They rather threaten to fine them. Recyclables, we must not forget, are being sold by the councils to industry, hence they do not want to even pay a penny or two per, say, aluminium can to people bringing them in. It would cut their profit margin.

The majority of people need incentives to really get the message of recycling, and once they can see that they get a few bob for their efforts they would definitely do it. It can be guaranteed, near enough, that we would end up with the same situation as in the USA where children and adults alike will walk the highways and byways and pick up all discarded tinnies and bring them to the recycling centers for a financial return.

As the manager of a recycling center in the USA told us; there, in his center, no one leaves with less than $100 in their pockets of an evening. That is a good income for a homeless family, for instance.

But, no doubt, the reply from government, whether local of central, in Britain to this would be that this may be fine and good in the USA and other countries, including some European ones, but it would never ever work in Britain, as Britain is different. This is the usual excuse that the UK governments tend to give when it comes to any such things.

While financial incentives as to recyclables could, I am well aware, cause people to steal things such as copper pipes and wires and such, it still should be something that should be attempted. The reverse vending machines and such likes, especially, for the likes of tinnies, plastic bottles and such. Glass bottles (and jars), on the other hand, should never end up in the recycling bin until such a moment that they are, in fact, broken and can not be used again for what they were intended for in the beginning.

For both glass bottles and glass jars a deposit scheme should be reintroduced, whether from the manufacturers as a scheme of their own or by “order” of government is irrelevant here. Those bottles and jars that people still leave in the countryside or litter bins will, as they used to, find their way back to the places that will pay the refund simply by children picking them up and returning them for pocket money as it used to be in days gone by.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

EcoConnect Launch at Kew Gardens

by Michael Smith

Kew, London, UK: The evening of Tuesday, October 21, 2008, saw the launch of ecoConnect, a new dynamic, green technology business facilitator, at Kew Gardens, which was probably the best venue for such an event, in more than one way.

ecoConnect’s objective is to help promote and commercialize innovative, transformational green technology to the UK’s corporate and business world.

Such technological solutions will be showcased through regular events in London and across the UK.

The ecoConnect online portal will provide news and information on all aspects of green technology in addition to partnership opportunities, contacts and business reviews.

Robert Hokin, Chief Executive of ecoConnect, says: “Environmentally-friendly technology is the key to reducing our carbon footprint. The launch of ecoConnect will promote creative and innovative technological solutions and make them widely available in the UK and elsewhere. There is clearly a hunger within the UK’s business community to implement eco technology and there are scores of practical solutions and great ideas but unless they find a pragmatic way to market many will disappear without a trace. It is ecoConnect’s job to help integrate green technology into our lives. We may blame past technology for creating today’s environmental challenges but I am absolutely convinced that green technology will help us shape a better future.”

Zac Goldsmith, ecologist, Editor of the Ecologist magazine and also the MP for Richmond, gave the keynote speech at the event.

In his little inaugural address Zac, basically, more or less, said that even if CO2 would have no affect on Climate Change and it be, more or less, a natural even or even a non-event, we still need to do all the things that we are talking about doing now, that is to say, reducing our reliance and dependence on fossil fuels and getting away from this dependence altogether. In the same way that we must reduce the waste mountain as we have (1) run out of holes in the ground and (2) cannot simply carry on wasting resources as we do presently.

The event provided all of those that attended an opportunity to look at a number of exciting examples of green innovation. Among transport innovations on show was the hydrogen fuel cell ENV motorcycle – displayed in the hall - and the Lightning Electric Car, which was stationed just outside the entrance.

In addition to that attendees were able to see the latest e-book readers by Libresco, which are made in the Netherlands., sociable guerrilla bagging, also was present with a lovely tote bag made from recycled fabric for every visitor. Not that everyone took up that offer. on their website give away the pattern and instructions for people to be able to make their own bags, for personal use, as well as for sociable guerrilla bagging action on the streets.

Also on display was one of the most innovative hand dryers for lavatories and kitchens that work without heat and such and the warm air is produced by compression – a little like the heat that is cased by compression of air in a bicycle pump.

It was good to see those innovations in the “green” and sustainability field and we need more of those, in order to become sustainable in all we do.

We must make green technology integral to our world and ecoConnect, as far as I can see, is going to be a vehicle to make this happen.

I am sure all of us wish ecoConnect the best and look forward to hear and see more of their work.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Zac Goldsmith to speak at EcoConnect, the new green technology facilitator

21 October 2008, London: ecoConnect, a dynamic, new green technology business facilitator, is launched today. Zac Goldsmith is the keynote speaker at the launch which is being held in Kew Gardens this evening.

ecoConnect’s objective is to help promote and commercialise innovative, transformational green technology to the UK’s corporate and business world. These technological solutions will be showcased through regular events in London and across the UK. The ecoConnect online portal will provide news and information on all aspects of green technology in addition to partnership opportunities, contacts and business reviews.

Robert Hokin, Chief Executive of ecoConnect, says: “Environmentally-friendly technology is the key to reducing our carbon footprint. The launch of ecoConnect will promote creative and innovative technological solutions and make them widely available in the UK and elsewhere. There is clearly a hunger within the UK’s business community to implement eco technology and there are scores of practical solutions and great ideas but unless they find a pragmatic way to market many will disappear without a trace. It is ecoConnect’s job to help integrate green technology into our lives. We may blame past technology for creating today’s environmental challenges but I am absolutely convinced that green technology will help us shape a better future.” He adds, “It is an honour to have Zac Goldsmith as our keynote speaker. He has been a committed supporter of environmental causes for many years and it is a privilege to have him at the ecoConnect launch.”

Zac Goldsmith, environmentalist and director of The Ecologist magazine, comments: “The good news is that every step we need to take is already being taken by someone, somewhere. In energy, buildings, waste, food and farming, there are already examples of genuine best practice. We now need to transform today’s best practice into tomorrow’s norm. EcoConnect is an organisation that will help turn eco ideas into commercial reality, and is very much needed.”

The event will provide an opportunity to look at twenty or so exciting examples of green innovation. Among transport innovations on show will be the hydrogen fuel cell ENV motorcycle and the Lightning Electric Car. These two high end designs look gorgeous, are emissions free and almost silent. There will also be a preview of the prototype wind turbine from Stormblade which is considerably smaller, more efficient and quieter than the current generation.

EcoConnect is a forum which unites the eco technology arena: executives responsible for sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives; entrepreneurs from green and clean technology companies and investors; political leaders and advisors; government development councils; policy makers, scientists and academics.

Making green technology integral to our world

ecoConnect is a UK-based green technology business facilitator. It is building the UK’s most progressive support community for bringing green technology to mainstream business and consumers. ecoConnect unites technology firms, inventors, academics, investors, consultancies, and anyone with a green and CSR agenda through regular events and its information portal.
The ecoSystem portal will be a business community and information hub which will provide news, highlight partnership opportunities, investment links, reviews, job postings and a green technology who’s who. For more information visit

Source: Moonlight Media

Energy Saving Week

Energy Saving Week starts on Monday 20 October with the aim of highlighting the role Brits can play in reducing their carbon footprint by making energy savings in their home.

Research by Legal & General shows that Brits are taking heed, with an energy conscious 78% of us either turning or intending to turn lights off in empty rooms and 71% not leaving televisions on standby.

Other changes Brits are making so their homes are more energy efficient include:

· 72% are already using low energy light bulbs
· 37% have double glazing or draft proofing
· 25% have installed extra loft insulation

And when looking for a new home:

· Almost three in five Britons (59%) would consider buying a house with solar panels
· 40% would opt for a carbon neutral house
· 33% would like to buy a house made totally from locally sourced materials.

Garry Skelton, marketing director at Legal & General’s general insurance business said: “Increasing awareness of the environmental impact that our lifestyles may have on our surroundings could potentially change the look of our homes in the future. There are many small steps Brits can take to make their homes more environmentally friendly but for those considering more major modifications, such as solar panelling, it is important that homeowners check their home contents insurance cover with their provider.”

These findings are based on research conducted by Legal & General on the Changing Face of British Homes which surveyed a GB representative sample of over 4000 adults.

Source: FD Consumer Dynamics

Compulsory tests for city's cyclists

Experts predict bike code and compulsory tests

by Michael Smith

Cyclists in London (UK) will have to take a compulsory proficiency test and pay for MOT certificates if the bike boom continues, so industry experts have warned in October 2008.

Cycling on major London roads has risen 91 per cent in the past eight years and the trend is set to continue as people try to save money (and time) by turning to two wheels.

While one might be forgiven to be thinking that those suggestions have emanated from the Treasury or at least the finance department of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor's Office in order to swell the coffers this is not, however, the case.

The truth is much stranger than fiction here for it was Andrew Brabazon, director of Cycle 08, the UK's largest and only consumer and trade show for bicycles and related, said a change in the “cycling landscape” would require similar rules to those that apply to motorists.

Those are the words from the man who, supposedly, should be supporting cycling and the cycle trade in this country seems to be throwing a monkey wrench into the works here, while cycling is starting to, very slowly, begin to bloom a little in Britain.

This is probably the most stupid thing that I have ever heard and the worse thing that could happen to cycling in Britain but, I assume, there is money to be made here, no doubt and hence the powers that be are looking into this for extra revenue. One can but wonder how come that the director of Cycle 08 comes out with statements and ideas such as these.

With “friends” like the director of Cycle 08 the cycling community in the UK certainly does not need enemies in other quarters. What a load of trash. Do we have such rules and regulation in other countries of Europe where bikes are much more in evidence than in the UK? No, we do not and the Dutch and the Danes – and even the Germans – I am sure – would soon tell their governments where to get off if they but suggested such stuff.

Only someone hell-bent on undermining cycling as something that can be done by everyone regardless of age and regardless of whether they can read or write even could come up with suggestions such as the ones mentioned here.

To have such weird comments emanating from someone who is supposed to be supporting and advancing the case and cause of cycling, especially commuter and general use of bicycles, in this country, is more than worrying. I hate to ask the question but... who is his paymaster? I am a little more than at a loss here as to someone in the position of Mr. Brabazon even to suggest such things.

While it has to be said that some cyclists – in fact a great many of the Lycra clad commuters and general road use cyclists – need to, certainly, learn the rules of the road tests and such like are the least that we who want to do out bit for the environment by taking to two wheels and human power need.

Indeed we have cyclists who do not seem to understand that the rules of the road also apply to them but that has nothing to do with tests or anything but simply with the fact that some seem to think that rules do not apply to them on two wheels propelled by their own energy. Red lights, however, apply equally to all road users, whether cars, trucks, motorbikes or pedal cycles. No exception and it is hight time that some – and they do not seem to be in a minority either – took note of that.

Ignorance and arrogance are also not cured with tests. They are only cured with enforcement of the rules. In other words; anyone crossing a red signal with a bike should be fined in the same way as a motorists, on the spot ideally, and if a known violator, have his cycle seized.

But we do not need tests and MOT certificates for bicycles. Good God! Has Mr. Brabazon been somewhere out in the sun too long?

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Starbucks wastes millions of liters of water a day

Coffee giant's running-tap policy shows that they are not as green as they like to lead the world to believe; in fact, less than green...

by Michael Smith

We simply must not get blinded by greenwash. Many companies engage in that, including companies that were supposedly set up with green and ethical views.

An investigation by the British “newspaper” The Sun revealed that over 23.4m litres of water are poured down the drains of 10,000 outlets worldwide due to a policy of keeping a tap running non-stop.

This is enough daily water for the entire population of Namibia in Africa of two million, which has severe droughts. Or it is to fill an Olympic pool every 83 minutes.
A single Starbucks tap left running for just over three minutes wastes the amount of water one African needs to survive for a day in drought conditions. Water waste like that is not just rather unfriendly to the environment it, in fact, borders on the criminal.

Each Starbucks has a cold tap behind the counter that runs into a sink known as a "dipper well", which is used to wash utensils.

Under the company's health and safety rules, staff are banned from turning the water off because management claim that a constant flow of water prevents germs breeding in taps.

Water companies joined green activists in criticising the firm for harming the environment and wasting a vital natural resource. Experts said leaving taps running for hygiene reasons was "nonsense".

Starbucks in the UK is wasting an estimated 1.63m litres a day – enough to supply Matlock village in Derbyshire with water. The taps of those “dipper wells” left on, as said, for all the time that the shops are open, and that is about for an average of 13 hours daily, and the water is not being recycled.

This is an absolutely astonishing waste of water, especially for a company which prides itself on its green credentials. Maybe we, the consumers, should go and tell Starbaucks what we think of their not so green credentials by voting with our feet.

Speaking to staff at Starbucks outlets around the world, the Sun found that many did not use the running tap or even know what it was for.

This is not the first time the Seattle-based firm has come under fire over its social and environmental credentials. In 2006, the Guardian reported how the US coffee giant has used its muscle to block an attempt by Ethiopia's farmers to copyright their most famous coffee bean types, denying them potential earnings of up to £47m a year.

As a result, Starbucks negotiated an agreement with the Ethiopian government to give the country more ownership and a better price for its coffee beans.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

European Union is back pedalling as regards to cleaning up

by Michael Smith

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 2008: Most of the European Union's promised cuts in greenhouse emissions could be undertaken outside the bloc under a proposal to be considered by law-makers this week.

Warning that climate change risks turning into a catastrophe for humanity, the EU's presidents and prime ministers committed themselves last year to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other substances blamed for global warming by 20 percent below 1990 levels within the following 13 years.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, argued at the time that Europe must transform itself into a low-carbon economy. But rather than requiring the reductions to be achieved within the EU, a more recent proposal would allow its member states to buy 'external credits' so that up to 80 percent of the cuts will be introduced through 'clean development' schemes in poorer countries.

In other words, the burden is going to be placed on countries outside the European Union while the EU member states continues as it. So, at least, it would appear. Now why does that not surprise me in the least? Why not? Because all those governments are doing is talking a lot of hot air and if they would stop doing just that we might, in fact, get some cooling of the planet.

This proposal is to come before the European Parliament's environment committee Oct. 7.

Green campaigners believe that if the committee accepts it and some other efforts to weaken a 'climate and energy package', the EU's reputation as a self-proclaimed champion of the environment will be tarnished.

It will indeed be tarnished, that image, but... did anyone really expect anything else from the European Union. All we are getting is lots of talk and not just on the environment. The same happens as to minority rights while, at the same time, the human rights of the Gypsy People throughout much of the European Union are being trampled under foot and the spectre of Hitler's Germany is raising its ugly head again, as far as the Gypsy People are concerned.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that the vote will represent the biggest legislative effort to tackle climate change that the world has yet seen. It is vital, according to the organisation, that a bold package is approved so that the European Union will be well-placed to demand that other major polluters take their responsibilities seriously during international climate change talks in Poznan, Poland, this December and in Copenhagen, Denmark, next year. The global discussions are designed to frame a successor to the Kyoto accord, which set reduction targets for the period lasting until 2012.

Unless we are seeing a miracle thought, this is not going to happen, however, and the measures are going to be farmed out to countries of the developing world, the once s-called Third World and/or poorer countries as yet outside the European Union itself. Nice one – NOT!

Delia Villagrasa, a WWF policy advisor, said that the EU should be focused on ensuring that the "vast majority" of its reductions occur within its own territory. "The EU will have to be a leader in the global negotiations if we want to have a global deal," she said. "For the EU to be seen as weakening its climate package really undermines its credibility in international negotiations."

Intense behind-the-scenes talks have been taking place among the Parliament's environment and industry specialists over the past few weeks. Many from the assembly's two largest groupings, the centre-right European People's Party and the centre-left Socialists, have been urging that the measures agreed should not penalise European firms. The Parliament is under pressure to wrap up its deliberations on the climate package speedily. France, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, is adamant that work on the dossier should be completed by the end of 2008.

Among the most contentious issues being addressed is what rules should apply to the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS), which places an overall limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that companies may release, and then requires them to acquire permits for their emissions.

While green campaigners have insisted that such permits should be sold and that the proceeds used to fight poverty and protect the environment, some companies that consume vast amounts of energy have warned that they would be put at a competitive disadvantage unless they are given their allowances for free.

Makers of chemicals, metal, paper and cement have intimated that they will have to leave Europe for countries with lower environmental standards if the ETS proves too expensive for them. But a new study by the research body Climate Strategies indicates that the risks of relocation are exaggerated, stating that steel companies are unlikely to 'pack up and leave' an area in which they have large capital investments and that factors other than environmental laws are more likely to determine where a firm operates.

Oh, what a surprise, NOT, that the industry has threatened to take the work to countries with lower environmental standards and the governments simply cave in to such blackmail. Maybe blacklisting such companies might be an idea.

We have had similar things happen with industry, such as steel industry, in Germany, when it got too expensive in the Ruhrgebiet and they upped sticks and moved to the former Czechoslovakia and even further East, even with the clever ploy of giving all employees the option to remain with the company and also move to those countries – but then being paid at the salaries that are being paid in those countries. The majority of the employees did not take up that offer and had no other avenue open to them but to resign. Just what the companies wanted; it saved them paying redundancy pay.

Can we really allow industry to rid roughshod like that over everything and to blackmail the governments and in the end us, the people? Methinks not.

Karim Harris from the organisation Climate Action Network Europe said that some industrial lobbyists have resorted to "scaremongering".

"If you look at the reasons why different manufacturers have left Europe in the past, it has not been because of environmental measures," she said. "It has usually to do with cheaper labour."

But Robert Jeekel from Eurometaux, which represents makers of aluminium and other metals, described the scaremongering allegation as "ridiculous".

He predicted that increased costs for industry would prompt aluminium firms to relocate to China, which is expanding its use of coal, one of the most ecologically destructive sources of energy. The net effect would be one of "lose-lose" both for European industry and for the environment, he added.

Meanwhile, France has put forward a new proposal to delay the implementation of new rules on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars.

Whereas the average car in the Union now emits 158 grams of CO2 per kilometre, the European Commission has advocated that this should be reduced to 130g/km by 2015. After fierce lobbying from firms that produce heavy vehicles, France has recommended in the past week that the target should be suspended until 2015 in order to give the industry greater time to prepare itself.

Greenpeace reacted angrily to the French plan. "French President (Nicolas) Sarkozy cannot ignore the continuous rise in transport emissions if he wants to help Europe reach its climate targets," said the group's transport specialist Franziska Achterberg. "This deal would be bad news for European consumers and the environment."

The problem with the European Union – in the same way as with the United nations – is that they are but useless talking shops of the governments and also vehicles used to suppress and oppress the people.

If the Union cannot get its finger out collectively then some of the countries should have the marrow to lead in this while at the same time making it impossible for companies simply to up sticks and move elsewhere. Leaving the EU might be a good idea for some countries, such as the United Kingdom.

The EU keeps showing itself to be a useless operation again and again, be this as regards to these environmental issues or those of human rights for the Romani-Gypsy People. A resolution was, for instance, as far as the attack against the Romani by the Italian government is concerned, by the European Parliament, but the resolution, like all other(?), of that parliament, is simply not binding on the government.

So, pray, what is the entire purpose of the EU?

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Cycle Show 2008 – Visit Report

by Michael Smith

This year's Cycle Show at Earl's Court did not appear to have the same number of vendors and exhibitors as previous shows. Instead of really showing new innovations, etc. and concentrated way too much on retail selling with the “shopping mall” that took over a large area which, in my opinion, could have been much better used for exhibitors showing the real cycling stuff.

Not only was it my feeling that Cycle 2008 was not as big as in previous yewars, many regular exhibitors also said so.

On the other hand a number of new products were on show of which Winkku particular attracted my attention and in the “being seen section, so to speak, ***. The Bigfish folding bike, which is a very new concept, designed in Slovenia and built in Italy, and I am sure it will, from what I saw, be a real runner. The other bikes of great interest to me were the Batavia range from the Netherlands. I would have loved to take one of them for a test ride and for a proper review.

Also and especially I wish I could get a Bigfish Folding Bike for review, for I think that the readers of this journal would be most interested to read about this new design of folding bike.

While there were tons of new and new-ish BMX bikes, Mountain Bikes and road racers on show, what was sadly lacking in numbers were “proper” bicycles, and especially proper commuter and local transportation bikes.

In the same way as there were a fair number of folding bikes for the city commuter and the one that I would, as I said, love to give a proper and thorough going over, being the “Bigfish”, the “normal” use bikes for shopping and such were missing.

Proof, I my opinion, yet again, if any were needed, that in the UK we are still not a biking society, unlike, say, the Germans, the French, the Dutch and the Danes.

This, may, hopefully, change if gas prices, congestion charges, etc. continue to bite.

The problem, presently, still is that people in the UK are too much tied to the car. They could not possible walk to the corner shop for their newspaper or to cycle, say, the two miles or so to the stores for their shopping. Let's not even talk if they use a bike to go to work with even if it is only a couple of miles, and less than 30 minutes. They rather get stuck in congested traffic for and hour or more than to use a bicycle and do the same in part of the time.

Children are rather taken to school, often less than 10 minutes walk away, by SUV and People Carrier than being walked there by parents or cycling there with parents – or on their own when old enough. Cars is everything they seem to think of here.

It was good to see that Pashleys, the beautiful British-made bicycles, real bicycles, as far as I am concerned, were once again represented with a nicely proportioned stand of their own and continue to attend the show. Unlike, for instance, Velorbis, from Denmark, who were ate the show before but seem to have decided that it is no longer worth coming to Earl's Court.

This appears to be somewhat of a trend and one can but guess that as far as bicycles are concerned this has two reasons: lack of real interest in the UK as regards to bicycles for other by BMXing, Mountain biking and road racing, and the fact that the UK venues are getting too expensive. The latter, it would appear, is also the reason why other shows are getting smaller and some have gone all together while other cannot get off the ground.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

BOGO LIGHT - Advertisement

Businesses told to recycle it - not can it

by Michael Smith

Beverage cans can be recycled over and over again and are already the world's most recycled drinks packaging item - but many steel and aluminium cans used outside of the home are not being recycled.

About 30% of the 8bn drinks cans sold in the UK each year are consumed at work or in public places where there are often no facilities to recycle them. Many councils even refuse to put such recycling bins into parks and open spaces because of the fact that they might get contaminated in that the hooligans would put something else in there – and I can guarantee that they would do just that.

This, the fact that so many cans are not being recycled, is a problem that is worrying the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) so much that it has launched a new programme, Every Can Counts, to help employers set up and promote drinks recycling within their organisations.

It follows successful pilot schemes run with energy supplier nPower at its offices and with drinks company Stella Artois at university campuses.

Several waste collection firms, including Biffa and Severnside Recycling, have already joined the scheme in its initial focus area of the West Midlands, where Alupro hopes to establish a best practice model to roll out nationwide.

It is hoped that if more waste collection firms sign up, the scheme - which is funded by Alupro members, can manufacturers, aluminium recycler Novelis and WRAP - can be expanded to all areas of the country.

Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro, said that a number of factors such as increasing landfill prices, new regulations on commercial waste, and greater public interest in recycling meant the time was now ripe for businesses to focus on cans.

He told edie: "Before, the economics haven't really stacked up, but now we are at a point where it does make economic sense and now there's a willingness from companies and employees to do it."

One of the most important elements of the programme is the communications campaigns that companies are encouraged to adopt to tell employees how to recycle and what difference their hard work is making.

Mr Hindley said: "The energy saved by recycling one can is enough to run your computer for one hour. That's a fact that really means something to someone working in an office."

What few people, in the councils and in the aluminium industry seem to realize, however, or, as far as government is concerned do not seem to want to realize, is that if there would be more of an incentive to recycle drinks cans (and other things) people might actually do so more.

There used to be can recycling centers local to most areas once upon a time – and this is no fairy tale though the way things are going one could believe that it would be – where people could bring in their cans and get paid a penny for every aluminium can. Most of those centers are nowadays no more.

In other countries reverse vending machines are in use that are very heavily in use as well. People in places in the USA actually, and entire families do so in oder to to supplement their incomes, walk the streets with bin liners in hand picking up soda cans from the environment as well as from the littler bins and they then turn those into ready cash. Three cheers for the reverse vending machines.

In other places in the USA where such machines and participating stores are not available there are local – and may of them are local enough for sure – recycling centers that buy in the bags of cans at what would appear a very decent rate, for I was told by center managers, as well as users, that most folks, including kids, don't leave there with less that $100 in their pockets of an evening.

This might be a way to go also in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Alas, I doubt this would ever catch on in the UK and that simply for all the excuses that will be given by the governments as well as and especially as this would take profits away from the industry itself.

I know I am a cynic but I just cannot see the aluminium recyclers and manufacturers part with even a small proportion, such as the penny or two a can, as used to be done, as the greed is far too strong. Why should they even consider that as long as they have a government that will force people to recycle and punish them if they don't. No wonder we are getting nowhere in the UK.

This is not to say that I do not support the efforts of trying to get those can recycled by the means of this scheme and others. It would be nice though if those that actively recycle in this way could get some financial reward and such rewards would also encourage more recycling in the end.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Could landfills resurrect Britain's mining industry?

by Michael Smith

Try to imagine an air-tight dome with teams of robots working alongside people in space suits as they sift through the corrosive waste of past generations, looking for scraps of plastic and nuggets of precious metals.

This isn't the opening scene of the latest Sci-Fi movie about to hit the screens of our movie theatres, but the vision of one of the leading thinkers of the British waste industry, describing how landfill mining might look a few decades down the line.

Freelance waste consultant Peter Jones, until recently a director at waste giant Biffa, was among the speakers at a London conference looking at likelihood of our old rubbish dumps becoming the mines of the future.

With raw materials becoming increasingly scarce and the price of oil rising it isn't stretching credibility too far to assume that what we threw away in times of plenty might be seen as a valuable resource in the not-too-distant future.

But is digging up this booty technically and economically feasible, and what will be left after years of decomposition in a hole in the ground?

Mr Jones warned that it might be a while before its safe to unearth these tarnished treasures, describing the grim reality of the rotting mess that remains underground for years after a landfill is capped and the fields above landscaped.

"This is not a friendly or benign environment - it's an extremely corrosive atmosphere," he said.

"When you open these things up,”, he said, “you will certainly discover that it's pretty awful in terms of decomposition.”

"We won't be able to go into any landfill that's closing today for about 30 years."

He said the waste would need to be sorted in air-tight domes and those inside would need to wear hazmat suits, or leave the work to machines.

And when it comes to recovering materials, there will be a fairly short list of useful resources left, according to Peter Jones.

Organics will have decomposed - and hopefully the subsequent methane burnt off as fuel - and all but the most inert of metals will be eaten away in the corrosive soup.

But one waste stream of today could still be a major resource tomorrow.

"When you dig up landfills the only recoverable tonnage material is going to be plastics," said Mr Jones.

And these, he added, would not be found in large sheets but rather shreds of different polymers here and there, making sorting for recycling an almost impossible task.

This still leaves the option of using the oil-based plastics as fuel however, most likely using relatively clean technologies such as gasification rather than simple energy-from-waste incinerators.

While I am trying to imagine the air-tight dome and all that I wonder why we should even have to do such mining in landfills. Why do we not prevent the metals, including precious metals, get into landfill in the first place?

As far as I am concerned my view is that we best leave the old landfills, once we have extracted the methane gas as fuel, alone as opening them could open a real can of worms, and I am not talking of the real worms that will be found there in abandon too.

Opening such a landfill could, despite supposedly air-tight domes, cause problems and we do not even know whether any disturbance might not cause leakage of one way or the other.

I also do not think that this plastic would be a financial viable concept for use as fuel and why should one even consider that as, theoretically, if we would do it right, there could be methane in abundance all over the place. All we would need to do it tap the sewerage works and use up all the slurry and human waste too for the production of methane.

We must not forget that the first every electricity power station was designed to run of effluent and also the original Ford motorcar designed by good ol' Henry was meat to run on methane.

What we should concentrate on is to keep as much as possible out of future landfills and deal with everything before it even reached the landfill.

Every bit of metal, plastic, etc. should be salvaged well before it reaches the landfill stage and the only thing that should go into landfill is that what really cannot be reused, recycled, composted or burned in furnaces to the generating of combined heat and power. And that would be such a small amount that any attempt to digging it up in the future for any salvage would not be worth the effort, especially not if we make sure that, as I said, everything that can be dealt with in one way or the other does not make it into landfill.

After reducing, reusing, recycling, composting waste and incineration and gasification of what is left for combined heat and power generating there will be precious little left to go into any holes in the ground, and a good thing that is going to be too.

So, let's get going in doing it all and get our waste mountain to a nigh on zero.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Hybrid rubbish trucks and buses launched in Europe

Traditional refuse trucks can be a disturbance due to their noise and waste a lot fuel while idling during rounds

by Michel Smith

Being rudely awoken early in the morning by the sound of a rubbish collection truck rumbling along the road is a familiar irritation of modern life. In addition to that there is the noise then created by the crews working at speed and hence making somewhat of a racket.

Residents of Göteburg, in Sweden, however, have been given longer lie-ins since waste firm Renova started piloting a hybrid rubbish truck made by the Volvo Group, which is virtually silent and reduces emissions.

The rubbish truck uses an electric engine at low speeds and when stationary, and the diesel engine kicks in when the speedometer reaches 20 kilometres an hour (about 12 miles per hour).

Stefan Lindberg, driver of the truck, said: "All the people know that big trucks are very noisy. Now we come down the streets and you can't hear the truck - you just see it."

One drawback with those trucks, as with all hybrid vehicles, is their silence which makes them a danger to anyone who is visually impaired. The truck will be upon them before they even know.

This kind of refuse truck is one of a number of large vehicles, including buses and construction equipment, on which Volvo is installing what it calls its fourth-generation hybrid technology, where an electric motor and diesel engine work in parallel and are used where they are most effective.

Volvo said this has increased the engine capacity compared with other hybrids, while reducing fuel consumption and improving driving characteristics.

"In a few years' time, hybrid technology will no longer be a special solution but a technology found in most new city buses and distribution trucks," Lief Johansson, president and CEO of Volvo Group said.

"The fourth generation hybrid technology has the potential to make such a development possible."

The company believes the technology will be commercially viable because it uses a large number of standard components that can be used across a range of different vehicles, and is adaptable, reducing production costs and times.

"Volvo believes that the prospects are favourable for developing hybrid technology for all heavy vehicle segments - everything from buses and construction equipment to trucks for distribution and long-haul traffic," Mr Johansson added.

As well as the ongoing refuse truck pilot, Volvo Buses has also launched its new hybrid bus, the Volvo 7700 Hybrid, in Europe.

Production of the bus, which can provide fuel savings of up to 30%, is scheduled to start next year, and field trials will be carried out in London.

In addition to the technology being commercially viable because it uses a large number of standard components that can be used across a range of different vehicles, and its adaptability, as mentioned by the Volvo representative, the fact that fuel costs are hitting the roofs adds to their viability in general.

I know I am a little old-fashioned, to say the least, but the way we are going as regards to the use and abuse of fossil fuels makes me wonder whether some things might not be best done by a wagon pulled by four-legged friends again soon. No, not dogs; that would be daft.

However, the horse has made a comeback and is becoming more and more used in forestry operations again so why should not soon dustcarts be drawn by horses, yet again. Maybe the old totters could also make a comeback with regards to recyclables. Not before time either.

While the clop-clop of horses' hooves early in the morning might also upset some people and the droppings would have some people sure turn up their noses, in my opinion, horse-drawn municipal vehicles could be an answer to some problems, especially that of fuel costs and purchase or leasing costs of the huge dustcarts in use today.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Thames flooding will be less severe than feared

by Michael Smith

Now who would have thought that??? Not so long ago we were being told that Climate Change would result in most of London probably flooding to a couple of feet and now is appears to be a case of “oh, well, it looks we got it wrong”. Same as the threat that are always talked about of the temperatures continuing to rise when, according to studies from elsewhere, it is reckoned that the temperatures have plateaued out and have not risen, even by the smallest of a fraction over the last six or so years.

Research by the Met Office suggests that climate change is likely to have less of an impact on water levels in the Thames than previously feared.

The research predicts that melting glaciers and icecaps combined with the water in the oceans expanding as the world heats up will translate into a rise of 20cm to 90cm in the Thames Estuary over the next century.

While this range is most likely, the report also cautions that there is a great deal of uncertainty about just how much of a contribution polar ice melt is likely to have, and in the water in the Thames could quite possibly rise by up to 2 metres.

Previous worst-case scenario of increases in maximum water levels can be revised down from 4.2 metres to 2.7 metres.

Such a reduction in worst-case scenario for this century means that a tide-excluding estuary barrage is unlikely to be necessary to manage flood risk this century.

The research also suggests that a surge in water levels in the Thames estuary from North Sea storms will not be as frequent or extreme as previously feared.

Behind the Thames barrier, the water could flow higher and faster than it does now - in Kingston, just West of London, for example, peak flow could be 40% higher than today by 2080.

Speaking about the results, Dr Jason Lowe, head of mitigation at the Met Office, said: "Having greater clarity on things such as storm-surge frequency is tremendously valuable and not just from a scientific point of view. This research will help to direct investment where it is most needed to manage the impacts of climate change."

Tim Reeder, Regional climate change programme manager for the Environment Agency Thames Region said: "This research enables the Environment Agency to continue to plan flood management investment with confidence.

"By narrowing previous uncertainty we now have an improved understanding of how climate change will affect the Thames Estuary and can develop realistic and cost-effective options, which will meet future needs.

"These are cutting-edge results and demonstrate the value of the Government engaging with the world-class scientists we have here in the UK."

The Environment Agency commissioned climate scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre, the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to investigate what impact climate change will have on the area over the next 100 years.

All those figures, however, only add up – and even then not necessarily – if the temperatures will continue to rise which, so it would appear, they have not done for the last 6 or so years and if we do not, in fact, start to go into a cooling period, as predicted by the Old Farmers' Almanac, for instance.

The suggestion that the temperatures have plateaued out and have not rise also give credence to the coming cooling and even mini ice age theory and prediction. This is, in fact, a way the Earth has been running for ever, so it would appear, and from observations that most of the scientists with an agenda seem not to wish to see, this has been so ate least for the last three millennia. There was a warm tp hot period during the times of the Romans in Britain and then during the time of the arrival of the Vikings in Newfoundland, which they called Vinland on the account of the sweet dark red grapes growing there. After each of those periods the Earth went rather more or less rapidly back into cooling and the results were mini ice ages, like then ones when the River Thames was frozen that solid that ice fairs were held on it.

The biggest problem mankind is facing is the fact that we may, more than likely, be unable to actually do anything about the Climate Change that is upon us, whether rising temperatures – though apparently, as said they know longer do so – or falling ones.

Presently we seem to have entered a most wobbly period in the Earth's climate cycles and we, more than likely, will be experiencing ongoing shifts in weather patterns and we will have to simply learn to live with it which, at the same time, reducing our impact on the environment and the Earth as a whole. We simply cannot go on living as if every resource is infinite.

For much of it we may have to go back to the future in order to actually progress and make our planet one that we can pass on to our children and children's children. We must celan it up and then some more.

© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008

Sustainability Purchasing

Offshoring - The Wal-Mart effect - Corporate Responsibility - These are some of the drivers behind the trend line towards more green and sustainable purchasing.

More and more organizations are adopting Corporate Responsibility (CR) commitments to integrate environmental, ethical, and social factors in their business strategies, operations, products and services, and in how they relate to their suppliers.

The Sustainability Purchasing Network in British Columbia recently published a study on trends and drivers of sustainability purchasing, noting the tendency for firms to adopt sustainable purchasing policies on the heels of adopting sustainability commitments.

The study also identified the ripple effect of large purchasers like Wal-Mart, which uses its marketplace influence to persuade its 60,000 suppliers to use less energy and reduce product packaging. Another trend raising the ire of activists concerned about sweatshop conditions overseas is offshoring, which arises from the globalization of the supply chain.

In theirGuide to the Business Case and Benefits of Sustainability Purchasing the Sustainability Purchasing Network compiled a number of financial and management benefits to organizations that adopt sustainable purchasing practices. The financial and management benefits include:

  • Cost reductions in material and utility expenditures, waste disposal, health and safety costs, and legal and insurance costs;
  • Attracts customers and helps meet their expectations for sustainably produced goods;
  • Simplifies compliance with environmental, health and safety regulations, and reporting;
  • Improves access to capital;
  • Helps suppliers better understand purchaser needs and promotes product innovation; and
  • Helps attract and retain talent and improve employee productivity.
Integrating social and ethical criteria into the purchasing decision can generate benefits such as better wage levels, working conditions, human rights, and health and safety. It can also support vulnerable groups and provide community services, promote a strong local economy and economic opportunity for indigenous people, and improve conditions in the developing world.

It’s not just companies that are following this approach. Vancouver’s Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) has adopted a program they call "Buy Smart," which includes goals to:
  • Increase their social, ethical, and environmental performance;
  • Support the growth of Aboriginal and minority-owned businesses and the sustainable enterprise sector;
  • Increase jobs for socially and economically disadvantaged groups;
  • Build higher performance venues and operations to support an excellent Games;
  • Support the local and provincial economy;
  • Increase sustainability purchasing leading to innovation, trade, and investment in the sustainability sector; and
  • Create a best practice model for sustainable purchasing.
Lest one think the fascination with sustainable purchasing is going away any time soon, a recent TerraChoice report, EcoMarkets 2008 Summary Report, says otherwise. They surveyed over $78 billion of purchasing power in Canada and the U.S. and found that 68% of North American organizations increased their green purchasing in the past 12 months. They also note 91% of purchasers believe they will become more active green purchasers over the next two years.

More retailers are jumping on the bandwagon of ethical sourcing. An AT Kearney 2007 report revealed that over half of U.S. Fortune 100 corporations are addressing the social aspects of their supply chains, with 54% tracing metrics on supplier labour practices and 32% tracking metrics on supplier wages.

Most purchasers find the real value of sustainability purchasing lies in supplier engagement. Purchaser-supplier collaborations are a gold mine of product and service innovation, improved social and environmental conditions, and long-term economic benefits for both parties.

Firms that overlook the strategic opportunity of engaging their suppliers in their quest to serve new markets, satisfy growing government regulations, manage diminishing resources, and build their corporate reputations are missing a key business opportunity.